'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'The Orville' Ship Designers Reveal Inspirations

Science fiction’s fascination with outer space explorations reemerged recently in shows like Star Trek: Discovery, The Orville, and Lost in Space. Space exploration requires spaceships and now the designers behind the vessels used to venture into the “final frontier” are revealing their inspirations.

In the case of Star Trek: Discovery, the USS Discovery was actually inspired by Ralph McQuarrie’s redesign for the USS Enterprise that was intended for use in the never produced film Star Trek: Planet of the Titans. The design is larger and more angular, which series co-creator Bryan Fuller felt was a better fit for the darker and more mysterious tone of Discovery. The Discovery ultimately took on a thinner look with the engineering section set below, as production designers Mark Worthington and Todd Cherniawsky told IndieWire.

“And for the break, we have two discs, an outer ring and the inner, saucer section,” said Worthington. “It felt fresh and it became the visual expression of the new [spore] drive system. That saucer pivots whenever the drive system is engaged.”

As for McQuarrie’s original Enterprise model, it made its way into Star Trek lore not as the Enterprise but as one of the ships destroyed during The Battle of Wolf 359 in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The ship’s model recently went up for auction.

IndieWire also spoke to the ship design team from The Orville, Seth MacFarlane’s love letter to Star Trek, about the design of that series’ titular vessel.

“Seth said that he wanted an aspirational show with bright colors, unlike so much of what’s out there today, a future where problems were solved and people are fairly well-adjusted,” said production designer Stephen Lineweaver. This came through in the ship’s curvature, its ringed design, and the two-story bridge set.

“The two-story platform led to the idea of putting the Bridge on the second story,” added Lineweaver. “It was a large observation deck that’s open to the sky. We put a large oval skylight and a gigantic view screen. To me, the Bridge was all about taking a trip into space and being immersed in it.”


The first season of Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream in its entirety on CBS All Access in the United States, through CraveTV in Canada, and through Netflix in other international markets. Star Trek: Discovery Season Two is now filming in Toronto.

The Orville returns to FOX for its second season on December 30th.